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2010 Cleveland Indians

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On May 28, 2010 @ 5:21 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Series Preview | Comments Disabled

There are four basic steps to rebuilding a ballclub. First, trade your marketable stars and veterans for prospects, retaining only the core, team-controlled players around which you plan to build. Second, evaluate your new assets to determine which will hit, which will miss, which might benefit from a position or role change or a particular mechanical or coaching fix, and identify what holes are likely to remain on your roster once those players have graduated to the majors. Third, once those players are established at the major league level, compliment them with one or two big free agent signings and perhaps another trade that target the remaining holes. Step four: win.

It’s not that easy (not that it sounds easy), but that’s the plan. The Indians are currently in Stage Two. Beginning with the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers in July 2008, Cleveland has traded CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, Franklin Gutierrez, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Garko, Kelly Shoppach, Ben Francisco, and Mark DeRosa. That’s a pair of Cy Young award winners, more than half of their 2008 starting lineup, an ace set-up man, a productive back-up catcher, and their 2009 Opening Day third baseman.

That has left them with a core of center fielder Grady Sizemore, 27, middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, 24, (both, cruelly, on the disabled list at the moment with injuries that could keep them out for a significant portion of the season), right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, 27 and the team’s best hitter for the last two seasons, and right-handed starter Fausto Carmona, 26. Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta, and Jake Westbrook are still around, but Hafner is tied down by a bad contract, the market for Peralta dried up last year when he moved to third base and stopped hitting, and Westbrook was frozen in place by his June 2008 Tommy John surgery.

To that core, the Indians have added these young players and prospects via trade:

2B – Luis Valbuena (from Seattle for Gutierrez)
SS – Jason Donald (from Philadelphia for Lee)
C – Lou Marson (also for Lee)
C – Carlos Santana (from the Dodgers for Blake)
OF/1B – Matt LaPorta (from Milwaukee for Sabathia)
OF – Michael Brantley (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Mitch Talbot (from Tampa Bay for Shoppach)
RHP – Justin Masterson (from Boston for Martinez)
RHP – Chris Perez (from St. Louis for DeRosa)
RHP – Jess Todd (also for DeRosa)
RHP – Carlos Carrasco (also for Lee)
LHP – Scott Barnes (from San Francisco for Garko)
RHP – Nick Hagadone (also for Martinez)
RHP – Bryan Price (also for Martinez)
RHP – Rob Bryson (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Jason Knapp (also for Lee)
RHP – Connor Graham (from Colorado for Betancourt)
RHP – Joe Smith (from the Mets in the Gutierrez deal)
LHP – Zach Jackson (also for Sabathia)
RHP – Jon Meloan (also for Blake)

Valbuena, Marson, LaPorta, and Brantley were in the Indians Opening Day lineup at second, catcher, first, and left, respectively. Talbot and Masterson are in their rotation. Perez was their closer while Kerry Wood was on the disabled list. Donald is now their starting shortstop with Cabrera on the DL. Santana is expected to be called up in June to push Marson into a backup role. Of those 20 players, only relievers Jackson and Meloan are no longer with the organization (both were throw-ins that yielded no lasting value for the team).

Of the eight pitchers not mentioned in the previous paragraph, Jason Knapp, a big, hardthrowing righty from New Jersey, has the highest ceiling, but is among the furthest away from the majors as a 19-year-old who hasn’t pitched above the Sally League and has yet to return to action this year following minor offseason shoulder surgery. The top prospect overall from the 20 above is Santana, who could be the next Victor Martinez and is on the Stephen Strasburg plan, due for an early-June arrival. That is made all the more impressive by the fact that they got him from the Dodgers for Casey Blake, a player they picked off the trash heap in 2002.

For now, however, the Indians have the look of a team that’s been gutted, something the injuries to Sizemore and Cabrera have only exacerbated. The defensively-challenged Valbuena is beginning to look like a bust at the keystone and is losing starts to 40-year-old Mark Grudzielanek, who didn’t get a major league opportunity last year. That could open up the position for Donald, who is getting a look at shortstop in place of Cabrera but is probably better suited for second, though many think he’s ultimately just a utility man.

In the outfield, Brantley struggled and was optioned out when Russell Branyan came off the DL forcing LaPorta to left field, and LaPorta has since lost his job to Austin Kearns, who came to camp as a non-roster player. Behind the plate, Marson’s days are numbered with Santana on his way. In the rotation, Masterson, who was so valuable in a middle-relief/utility pitcher role for the Red Sox, is 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA. Mitch Talbot, acquired from the Rays for Shoppach, is 6-3 with a 3.73, but he has walked as many men as he’s struck out.

The net result is that the 2010 Indians are a terrible team. They’re scoring fewer than four runs per game and allowing nearly five, and their overall record is better than only those of the Orioles and Astros. Cleveland has won just four series all year, one against the Orioles, one against the Royals and, curiously, two against the White Sox (both of those coming in April).

Fausto Carmona, who faces Phil Hughes tonight, has been the Tribe’s best pitcher this season, finally gaining control over the wildness that plagued him the last two years. Not that he’s suddenly become a control pitcher. He’s still walking 3.6 men per nine innings against just 4.7 strikeouts. He’s also getting fewer ground balls, though a lot of those “flies” are actually infield pop-ups. Still, better is better, and that’s big considering Carmona is one of the few players the Indians decided to keep.

The Yankees decided to keep Phil Hughes, and it has payed of both this year and last, though Hughes will look to pull out of a tiny two-start slump while facing the punchless Tribe tonight. The Yankees also opted to keep Kevin Russo with Curtis Granderson coming off the DL tonight, so Randy Winn has been designated for assignment  having hit .213/.300/.295 as a Yankee and 0-for-11 with four strikeouts and no walks against left-handed pitchers.

Granderson bats second tonight, Russo rides pine, Brett Gardner moves back to left field, Alex Rodriguez gets a day off, and Chad Moeller makes his first start since returning to the team producing a bottom five of Nick Swisher, Juan Miranda (DH), Gardner, Ramiro Peña, and Moeller. So much for putting some punch back in the lineup.

Cleveland Indians

2010 Record: 17-28 (.378)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 18-27 (.400)

2009 Record: 65-97 (.401)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 73-89 (.451)

Manager: Manny Acta
General Manager: Mark Shapiro

Home Ballpark: Jacobs Progressive Field

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-100, LH HR-91
RH Avg-95, RH HR-96

Who’s Replacing Whom:

  • Russell Branyan replaces Ryan Garko and Mark DeRosa
  • Jason Donald replaces Asdrubal Cabrera (DL)
  • Trevor Crowe is filling in for Grady Sizemore (DL)
  • Austin Kearns replaces Ben Francisco and Michael Brantley (minors)
  • Lou Marson replaces Victor Martinez
  • Mike Redmond replaces Kelly Shoppach
  • Mark Grudzielanek replaces Jamey Carroll
  • Shelley Duncan is filling in for Andy Marte (DL)
  • Jake Westbrook (DL) replaces Cliff Lee and some of Aaron Laffey’s starts
  • Justin Masterson inherits Carl Pavano’s starts
  • Mitch Talbot replaces Jeremy Sowers and Anthony Reyes (DL)
  • Fausto Carmona reclaims Carlos Carrasco’s starts
  • Chris Perez inherits Rafael Betancourt’s innings
  • Hector Ambriz replaces Jensen Lewis
  • Jamey Wright replaces Tomo Ohka

1B – Russell Branyan (L)
2B – Luis Valbuena (R)
SS – Jason Donald (R)
3B – Jhonny Peralta (R)
C – Lou Marson (R)
RF – Shin-Soo Choo (L)
CF – Trevor Crowe (S)
LF – Austin Kearns (R)
DH – Travis Hafner (L)

Bench:

L – Mark Grudzielanek (2B)
R – Matt LaPorta (OF/1B)
R – Shelley Duncan (OF/1B)
R – Mike Redmond (C)

Rotation:

R – Jake Westbrook
R – Fausto Carmona
L – David Huff
R – Justin Masterson
R – Mitch Talbot

Bullpen:

R – Kerry Wood
R – Chris Perez
L – Tony Sipp
L – Rafael Perez
L – Aaron Laffey
R – Jamey Wright
R – Hector Ambriz

15-day DL:

CF – Grady Sizemore (bone bruise in left knee)
3B – Andy Marte (“non-baseball medical issue”)

60-day DL:

SS – Asdrubal Cabrera (broken left arm)
RHP – Anthony Reyes (Tommy John surgery)

Typical Lineup:

S – Trevor Crowe (CF)
L – Shin-Soo Choo (RF)
L – Travis Hafner (DH)
R – Austin Kearns (LF)
L – Russell Branyan (1B)
R – Jhonny Peralta (3B)
R – Luis Valbuena (2B)
R – Lou Marson (C)
R – Jason Donald (SS)


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